Already common for enterprises, for the first time, individuals will also get the option to pay for extended security updates for a Windows operating system that’s out of support.
Windows 10 will stop getting free updates, including security fixes, after October 14, 2025; which is the official end of support date. But there is good news for Windows 10 holdouts: In addition to the expected announcement that large organizations will be able to buy up to three years of Extended Security Updates for Windows 10, small businesses and home users will be able to pay for up to three years of Extended Security Updates for the OS.
What is Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates program?
When Microsoft software reaches end of support, that means it no longer gets monthly security updates, bug fixes, new features, updates for any changes to time zones and daylight savings changes or technical support. Microsoft’s Extended Security Updates program doesn’t replace all of those options; ESUs just provide the monthly security updates from Windows Update and only cover what Microsoft classifies as critical or important vulnerabilities, which means no fixes for security issues you can mitigate without Microsoft making changes to Windows. ESUs are available for three years after the end of support.
ESUs are common for Windows Server and server products like SQL Server. And ESUs have occasionally been available for desktop versions of Windows; the Windows 7 ESUs didn’t end until January 2023.
You have to pay for ESUs with an annual subscription; in the past, that has meant having a volume license for Windows with Software Assurance, like an Enterprise Agreement, Enterprise Agreement Subscription, Enrollment for Education Solutions or Server and Cloud Enrollment. ESUs have also been available to enterprises with SPLA or a Server Subscription.
What’s different this time is that individuals will be able to buy the annual ESU subscription for their Windows 10 PCs.
How can I get Extended Security Updates for Windows 10?
Large organizations will use the same volume license systems to get ESUs as in the past, but there will be a new subscription option for individual users to get ESUs for Windows 10; you’ll pay for one year at a time for up to three years.
Microsoft hasn’t announced what the price of ESUs will be for small businesses and home users that don’t have a volume license or how the subscriptions will be sold. However, Windows license upgrades have been available through the Microsoft Store in Windows in the past, and that seems a likely mechanism.
ESUs become available on the day that a version of Windows reaches end of support. Previously, enterprises have been able to sign up for ESUs in advance and activate them the month before support ends, so there’s no gap when systems could be exposed to attacks.
Setting up ESUs for servers can be complicated, but for Windows 10, once you have the ESU subscription set up, the updates will be delivered through Windows Update, which is the same way monthly security updates have been all along.
Do all versions of Windows 10 need ESUs?
Version 22H2 is the last version of Windows 10 for the Enterprise, Education, Pro and Home editions. There are specific editions designed for specialized devices like ATMs, cash registers and controlling industrial machinery or medical equipment that continue getting updates – Windows 10 IoT Enterprise Long Term Servicing Channel and Windows 10 IoT Enterprise – but those aren’t suitable to use as a standard Windows desktop.
Are ESUs free on Azure?
To encourage organizations to run older versions of Windows and Windows Server in the cloud, where Microsoft can make sure they’re automatically patched so they’re as secure as possible – something that matters much more for an OS that’s no longer in active development – Microsoft has previously made ESUs free for VMs running on Azure, including Azure Stack. This includes Azure Stack Hub, Azure Stack Edge or Azure Stack HCI, all of which can run on your own hardware and on your own network.
That will also apply to Cloud PCs running Windows 10, but it works slightly differently depending on which cloud virtualization service your organization uses.
If you run a Windows 10 virtual machine on Azure Virtual Desktop, ESUs will be free for those VMs. If you’re using Windows 365, you will get free ESUs for the physical Windows 10 PCs you use to access Windows 11 Cloud PCs. It’s not yet clear whether ESUs will also be free for organizations using Windows 10 on Windows 365 Enterprise (even if it’s not offered by default, that will likely still be possible with custom images); we expect Microsoft to clarify this soon.
ESUs offer Windows 10 users breathing room
Microsoft is naturally keen to get users to move to Windows 11, which is finally getting much-needed features like the ability to turn off the News widget. But two years after release, Windows 11 adoption seems to be slower than Windows 10. Microsoft hasn’t published official figures for Windows 11 usage, but internal documents seen by Windows Central claim 400 million monthly active devices and while that’s expected to grow to half a billion users in early 2024, Windows 10 reached the 400 million mark after a single year.
While the end of support for Windows 10 will push larger organizations to upgrade to Windows 11 over the next two years, the continuing strength of Windows 10 explains why it’s getting new features like Windows Copilot, as well as support for new standards like Wi-Fi 7.
ESUs don’t give you the technical support or new features that Windows 11 will continue to get, but they offer you a way to keep using Windows 10, if that is your preferred OS or if you’re just not ready to migrate to Windows 11 yet, and stay reasonably secure.